For some of us, this is not about gotcha games, cresting news cycles or even, as Sen. Ted Cruz suggests, supporting Hillary I have endorsed Donald Trump (here), but I have also been writing about the natural born citizen issue and an array of eligibility-related issues (e.g., fraud, forgery) at least as long as Barack Hussein Obama has been president. Not that our best, brightest, bravest and most brilliant wanted to touch any of it then, either. But never have I seen advanced the crazy-if-you-believe-this-one definition of a "natural born citizen" attributed to Donald Trump by Sen. Cruz in Thursday night's debate (also discussed here).
In my syndicated column in April of 2013, I wrote:
With a British father, Obama cannot meet the constitutional requirement of having been “natural born,” which is a different and more restrictive category than “native born.” Similarly ineligible, I would add, are Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and, alas, Ted Cruz of Texas, both of whom have parents who were not citizens when they were born.
That is the parental standard as I have both read and come to understand it: The child of two parents who are citizens at the time of the child's birth is "natural born." Whether the parents are born Americans or naturalized Americans doesn't matter so long as they are American citizens when their baby is born. The "soil" standard is another matter.
Undoubtedly, the constitution is another matter -- as in, whether it even matters in post-Constitutional America -- but somehow it doesn't sit right when constitutional conservatives tell you to shut up because Ted Cruz is a constitutional conservative.
It also doesn't sit right when Sen. Cruz declared on the debate stage this week that "the birther theories that Donald has been relying on" would exclude children born to naturalized citizen-parents from the presidency, including Trump whose mother was born in Scotland (and naturalized four years before his birth in Queens, New York).
Neither Donald Trump nor the legal scholars and others weighing in on this discussion have made such an elastic case. As noted above, I have not come across it before myself. So why did Sen. Cruz say such a thing?
When asked by debate moderator Neil Cavuto to state his piece on the natural born question, Cruz used this straw-man argument to obfuscate the issue. He equated it with a New York Times story about a campaign loan; used demonizing slang -- "birther" is as ugly as "tea-bagger"-- to denigrate a legitimate issue to citizens choosing their next president. Not dissimilar tactics worked last time around (willing media and supine GOP were key), but hey, Obama has always openly despised the Constitution. It is sad to see them in use again -- but especially so when we are told it's "consistent conservatism" in action.
Here is some of what Cruz said from debate transcript excerpted at Real Clear Politics:
At the end of the day, the legal issue is quite straightforward, but I would note that the birther theories that Donald has been relying on -- some of the more extreme ones insist that you must not only be born on U.S. soil, but have two parents born on U.S. soil.
Under that theory, not only would I be disqualified, Marco Rubio would be disqualified, Bobby Jindal would be disqualified and, interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump would be disqualified.
I am not sure what audience members were applauding, but I don't think it was a triumph of principle.